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PREVIEW: Ones to watch at Zatopek:10

Published Sat 23 Jan 2021

One of the premier nights on the  Australian athletics calendar is only days away, with Zatopek :10 set to go ahead at Box Hill’s Hagenauer Reserve on January 26. 

It’s the 2020 edition of the event, held in 2021 due to COVID-19. 

The blockbuster schedule features some of Australia’s most elite track and field athletes across a range of events - headlined by the men’s and women’s 10,000m, which doubles as the national championships. 

Women’s 10,000m 

The big name players are all present for the women’s 10,000m at Zatopek and with intentions to run the Olympic standard of 31:25, it shapes as the most competitive race of the night. 

When Genevieve Gregson (Nic Bideau) is on the start list of a domestic race it’s hard to look past her - a renowned classy athlete, she is the reigning champion and holds the Australian record in the 3000m steeplechase, but most of all is just a ferocious competitor. 

Gregson is not only looking to defend her title from 2019 where she edged out Andrea Seccafein in a time of 32:47.83, but so too add another string to her bow in the form of an Olympic qualifier in the event. And with a recent time of 32:00 on the roads, one would suggest that Gregson is more than capable of doing just that. 

Seccafien returns in 2021, with the Canadian record holder in the half marathon a near-certainty to be pushing the tempo with the front group and ensuring the race is fast. 

Sinead Diver (Nic Bideau) is one athlete who will be aided by the hot pace, with a fast and consistent pace likely to suit the accomplished marathoner more than most. Diver’s last track race was the 10,000m at the World Championships in Doha, where she clocked 31:25.49 to finish 14th. 

In that very race was also Ellie Pashley (Julian Spence) who finished in 13th, and is dropping back in distance and right into the thick of things at Zatopek. Pashley, who is the only Australian to have run a Tokyo qualifier in the event, recently made her return to racing after the London marathon, taking the win over 5000m with what was a solo effort in blustery conditions. 

And then there’s 21-year-old Rose Davies (Scott Westcott). 

Davies’ third place finish in 2019 established her as a serious force on the domestic scene, with the then-teenager demonstrating her strength over 25 laps and marking herself as one to watch. 

In December of 2020, Davies ran 32:02 on the road for 10 kilometres, finishing only two seconds behind Gregson - a form line that should land her deep in the discussions of potential winners here. 

South Australia’s Isobel Batt-Doyle’s (Maurica Powell) improvement in 2020 suggests she will be an active player come the business end of proceedings, with personal bests of 15:26.48 and 32:13.04 for 5000m and 10,000m respectively on the track - along with a third place finish behind Gregson and Davies in Launceston. 

Men’s 10,000m

2019’s instalment of Zatopek saw Stewart McSweyn and Patrick Tiernan go toe to toe in a gruelling battle over 25 laps, with McSweyn prevailing and setting a new Australian record of 27:23.80 and qualifying for Tokyo in the process. 

Tiernan recently returned serve when running 27:22.55 in the USA to claim McSweyn’s national record and set up an enticing duel in the years to come - but the contest is one we will have to wait for, with neither athlete featuring in this year’s Zatopek:10. 

Their absence certainly does not leave the field deprived of class though - with the race headlined by Melbourne Track Club teammates Jack Rayner (Nic Bideau) and Brett Robinson (Nic Bideau), 

Questions of Rayner’s fitness levels were raised when a tendon injury derailed his London marathon preparation, but he the flamboyant talent soon put that conversation to bed when leading gun to tape in a time of 28:48 in Launceston to secure an emphatic victory. 

Six weeks on and it’s Rayner who shapes as the man to beat after an uninterrupted preparation which included an impressive three week stint at altitude - where he regularly ran away from his training partners deep into sessions. 

Robinson on the other hand opted to continue with business as usual in Melbourne to start his 2021 campaign, and if he can emulate his early 2020 form then something quick is on the cards. 

A previous winner of the race and Australian record holder in the half marathon, Robinson will undoubtedly accompany Rayner and help in pushing the pace in the lead group. Whilst a 61:38 half marathon in December reads on paper as significantly off his best of 59:57, there’s no mistaking that the Australian stalwart is in sublime form leading into this race. 

Not many years go by where David McNeill (Nic Bideau) fails to clock a fast 10,000m on the track. McNeill has a best of 27:45.01 to his name in the event and is likely to work with his Melbourne Track Club teammates at the front and should be prominent in podium discussions. 

Other athletes who should feature early in the finish include Sam McEntee (Elizabeth Matthews) and Andre Waring - who both appeared to be in fine touch at Falls Creek, and Andrew Buchanan who is a consistent performer over 10,000m. 

The field features outstanding depth and quality, with a number of rising stars also lacing up their spikes. 


It’s not only the endurance machines that will be in action at Zatopek - with the men’s 1500m attracting some of Australia’s best domestic talent.

Former Australian record holder Ryan Gregson (Nic Bideau) will be looking to open his 2021 campaign fresh off a training block at Falls Creek, along with training partner Jordan Williamsz. Gregson proved to be a model of consistency in 2020, running 3:35 three times and a 3:52 mile in the space of five weeks. With time on his side in 2021, Gregson’s pursuit of the Olympic qualifier starts here, where he will be hard to beat. 

History would suggest that Williamsz will be right in the thick of the action in the last lap, with a personal best of 3:36.30 and a decade of strong performances over the metric mile to his name. Williamsz’s 28:57 for 10 kilometres on the road in December is indicative of an improved aerobic engine - a dangerous combination with his renowned speed. 

Peter Bol (Justin Rinaldi) is stepping up to the 1500m here, with the traditional 800m man possessing a handy best of 3:42.35 over the longer trip. Bol’s form is largely unknown having not raced since September - but you can count the smooth-mover to feature prominently in the finish. 

Callum Davies is a Queenslander on the rise - having run his personal best of 3:43.51 at this very track and meet in 2019. Davies blew out the cobwebs in November of 2020 with a 3:47.10, and after a stint at Falls Creek to start the year the young gun appears destined to lower his personal best at Zatopek. 

Jaryd Clifford’s (Philo Saunders) form is well known, with the gutsy Victorian unofficially breaking his own 1500m world record twice in the space of the month - a 3:44.58 in December followed by a 3:44.36 in January. On both occasions Clifford was left on his own in front in the later stages of the race, and with a quality lineup here, the champion could be on for something special. 

While the women’s 1500m field is smaller, the athlete to look out for is one of Australia’s premiere 1500m runners, Linden Hall who until last year held the Australian record of 4:00.86. Jessica Hull lowered that record by just 0.44 but there’s no doubt that Linden will be out to beat her own best. 

By Lachlan Moorhouse
Posted: 23/1/2021